I should be working at YouTube

YouTube has been finding new and interesting ways to fuck up this week.  From the responses I’ve been getting from the YT support people, they’re working really hard so I don’t want to pick on them specifically.  But there’s no getting around it, certain aspects of YT are structurally fucked.  Once you’ve been using it for a while you realise comparatively little effort has been focused on the commenting and messaging system.

Of course, the powers that be at YT would likely argue that the site is all about video, not about text messages.  To an extent they’d be right and it’s certainly how they got themselves established but it isn’t what’s going to help them maintain their position.  As a fairly deeply involved YT “community” member, I see on a daily basis that the majority of the hordes of people on YT really want to interact.  YT allows this on a very rudimentary level but falls significantly short on delivering the experience most people are looking for.  This is YT’s biggest vulnerability – if a competitor like Revver offered a compelling community building experience I believe that would have a bigger impact on YT’s user base than any offer to pay video creators.

I documented my standard gripes in my recent post titled “Reasons YouTube Sucks” (I’m on the first page of Google results for “youtube sucks” by the way).  But as I said at the start of this post, they’ve found a few new ways to suck in the last week.  The first revolves around spam.  A certain someone has been creating masses of user accounts for the sole purpose of sending porn spam to other users.  To the best of my knowledge, it isn’t possible for a spammer to automate this process so somebody is dedicating a lot of time to being an annoying fucking prick.

The YT help desk approach so far has been to block each account as it’s reported but this is an endless game of whack-a-mole.  Each time an account is blocked another is simply set up.  I’ve worked in this sort of crisis environment (and I suspect YT are treating this as a crisis) and they must be tearing their hair out.  I suspect they are doing a lot of work behind the scenes but I also suspect YT’s architecture is working against them.

The first clue that YT is structurally fucked with regards to this problem is that you have no spam filter for your personal messages.  There’s no function to mark a message as spam.  There’s no spam folder.  It seriously seems as though they’ve set up a messaging system for millions of users with almost no thought of how to deal with spam.

Another possibly related issue that has appeared only in the last week is your message inbox indicating there are approximately 40 million unread messages waiting for you.  Whether the spammers have broken the system or one of the attempted fixes has broken the system, I suspect that the spam and the counter bug are related.

Another weird bug that I’ve only noticed this week is the counter for video views only working intermittently.  This might have slipped by me if the cute kitties with captions video I put up wasn’t so popular.  It’s getting about ten times the usual number of views for me which I didn’t really expect.  But the counter is getting stuck and not moving for a number of hours and the next time it changes it’s gone up by about 500 views. 

All of which brings me back to the heading for this post, my idea that I should be working at YouTube.  Not so much because I’m a genius (although I clearly am) but more because solving these sorts of problems is essentially what I do in my day job.  Watching each change and “enhancement” made to the YT site makes it clear that YT is a technology driven site.  This may sound like an obvious statement but what I mean is that from the outside, each change seems to be about making the site slicker (woo!  new buttons!) as opposed to addressing any actual user issue. 

Making a change for the fundamental reason that the technology allows you to rather than thinking first about what would improve things for users and THEN looking for a technical solution is a common flaw in IT-related companies.  The issue is particularly pronounced in the web space where getting mentioned on TechCrunch seems to matter way more than making several million users happy.  But like I said, this is from the outside looking in and I could be totally wrong.  But it feels like I’ll never know because the powers that be at YouTube almost never fucking communicate to the user base.

If only they had at their disposal some medium that allowed them to communicate easily with their entire user base.  Hmmmm, but who could develop the incredible technology required to do this?  Hey, here’s an idea guys: why don’t you do a video blog?

15 Comments

Filed under General Angriness

15 responses to “I should be working at YouTube

  1. Is there an option of password protecting videos on YT so only authorised people can view?

  2. they also need some kind of foldering system, so you can organize your videos. i ended up making different accounts for different kinds of videos instead, but that’s annoying.

    that spam thing is really going to be a problem for them until they’re fully integrated with the mothership. i’ve found gmail spam filtering to be way more effective than yahoo recently – i suspect the YT people are just punting the issue for now.

    speaking of technology-driven, another example is a new feature of LibraryThing called the Unsuggester – you put in titles of books you like and they will return with 5 you won’t. Somebody’s letting the developers run the show again. As in, where the fuck is the ROI on that?

  3. Suroor: indeed there is, you set them as “private” and then only people you specifically invite to view them are able to.

    Tom: yeah, I think a range of Google tech could really help YouTube (Gmail, groups, Blogger). As for techies creating “useless” things, I’m torn on this. Sometimes it really is a waste of time, sometimes the intellectual exercise is useful and sometimes a business model nobody thought of ahead of time springs out of the woodwork.

  4. Requesting a Mr Angry opinion: So my Time Traveler video on YouTube (in which I pretend to be a time traveler, oftening banal tips on the subject, such as what to wear, and when to go) garnered a comment – “I am a time traveler too. Which part of Ariana are you from?”

    In your YouTube experience, I notice you reply to most if not all commenters – does this include the patently insane ones? Should I leave the poor creature alone, play along, or mock him mercilessly?

  5. It’s funny how you see these companies become acquired and it’s almost instant-death for development (Blogger and del.icio.us are other good examples). I keep getting the feeling it’s almost as if the new parent gets their hand on the codebase and realize that it’s held together with gum and shoe string and all of their great ideas for improvement can’t be implemented.

    Sometimes when it looks like nothing is happening, I think it is because they’re slowly rewriting everything (Blogger beta) to get rid of the horrible design decisions that were made before.

  6. tom: I’m all for playing along with the clearly insane ones. See if you can outdo them. Maybe you are a post-chronoclasm traveller from thousands of years after Ariana was destroyed in a global war.

    engtech: there’s no question about it – YouTube is structurally and architecturally fucked. Fixing these core issues will be a long slow process.

  7. I am going to steal that, thank you very much!

    got to agree with engtech as well – as someone who has gotten his grubby paws on all sorts of codebases, i haven’t seen one yet that wasn’t at least a little skanky underneath.

  8. tom: do a video response to my time-travelling blogging bot next time I put up a new video featuring him.

  9. OK, maybe I could try then…

  10. good idea. i have something all ready which i think you will enjoy

  11. I am willing to bet that the reason YouTube is more successful than Google Video is because it has some semblance of social networking, however minor. For one thing, I can browse what a given user has uploaded, the sheer lacking of this capability on Google Video is inane!

  12. myspace claims they’ve had more than 40,000 videos uploaded today alone! i wonder if it’s true.

    they also failed to distinguish between Washington state (WA) and Western Australia, so it’s not just YouTube – there’s buggy software all over the place

    eh, and my “time traveler” friend still hasn’t picked up on the joke, even though i changed the name of the video from Time Traveler to Tedious Time Traveler! I think it’s a case of a genuine “fuckwit”

  13. YT is a bit messed up for the moment. Once they start putting ads into everything, maybe people will stop using it so much. Will that happen? I don’t know, it is always a possibility.

    Of course, normally YT should improve since it has been bought by Google, but will it?

  14. devlin: that is definitely a strength of YT that many pundits overlook. However it’s also their weakpoint seeing they do it in such an ordinary way.

    tom: sad to say, there are days when the fuckwits seem to outnumber the intelligent people.

    range: I hope they are able to benefit from the Google tech, but I think it will be a long slow road.

  15. i get an automated PM Spam , i get pages of spam and its annoying, YouTube fixed the problem and all the accounts who sent the spam got suspended, YAY!!!

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